10 Things You Didn’t Know About Fortified Wines

Brandy Wine

What is a fortified wine? While not as popular as they once were, fortified wines are still widely consumed in several countries around the world. While there are many different types of fortified wines available, such as Vermouth and Sherry, this article focuses on three types that many people will be more familiar with – Port, Madeira, and Marsala. The following are ten facts about these three very common types of fortified wines that you may not know.

1) Where Fortified wines came from?

What is a Fortified Wine
What is a Fortified Wine

The Ancient Greeks and Romans fortified apple wine with a mixture of seawater and animal dung. Alcohol kills harmful bacteria, so by fortifying their wine, these civilizations could store it for longer periods of time. While many modern-day winemakers still use animal-dung-based products to fortify their wines, they now use sulfites rather than seawater or animal waste. These modern-day sulfites do much more than just prevent spoilage; they also serve to enhance color and flavor!

2) How Fortified wines became popular?

Port and Madeira became popular on long sea voyages because they were fortified with brandy, which prevented spoilage. The name port derives from an old Portuguese word for fortified wine. They’re not all sweet: Because port wines are often rich in tannins, we think of them as red wines that are rich and complex enough to merit aging—but the white port is a thing!

3) The science behind wine fortification

Wine Fortification
Wine Fortification

Wine Fortification is a winemaking process that involves adding sugar, alcohol, or both to wines. The practice was popularized in Europe around 1400 AD and was widely used until World War I. While fortified wines are not nearly as popular today as they once were, they are still produced around the world and often have a unique flavor that sets them apart from nonfortified varieties.

4) What they are made with

Wines can be fortified with a variety of liquors, depending on what flavor profile a winemaker is going for. Most commonly, they’re fortified with brandy (which has a higher alcohol content than wine) or vodka.

5) Which ones are fortified and which ones aren’t in wine producing countries

wine producing countries
Wine Producing Countries

In wine producing countries, it’s common for wines to be fortified with additional alcohol (especially brandy), often during production and more commonly at the time of bottling. In theory, winemakers could infuse any wine with a higher-proof spirit to fortify it, but in practice, most fortified wines are made from grape varieties that have been affected by molds or bacteria (like Botrytis cinerea) during fermentation.

6) What types of wines get fortified?

Fortified wines are wines that have other ingredients added to them. The most common fortifying ingredient is brandy, but Sherry and Madeira also get fortified with wine spirits. Port wine has a small amount of distilled grape spirit added to it when it is being aged in barrels, so it too is considered a fortified wine. Other fortified wines include Marsala and Vinho do Porto (from Portugal).

7) How much alcohol do different wine types contain?

Different Wine Types
Different Wine Types

It’s important to keep in mind that most wines are typically somewhere between 12 and 14 percent alcohol, with fortified wines clocking in higher than that. Sherry comes in at around 18 percent alcohol, while Port ranges from 20 to 40 percent. So it’s easy to see why people enjoy a glass of wine when they’re looking for something to relax after a hard day. At the end of the day different wine types mostly contain alcohol.

8) What does fortified wine taste like?

From a flavor perspective, fortified wines are similar to high-alcohol wines like Port, Sherry, and Madeira. They’re usually quite sweet and go well with cheese or dessert. In addition to their full body and strong alcohol content, fortified wine taste is unique because of its biscuit notes from oak aging—something you won’t find in lower-alcohol wines.

9) How long will fortified wine last?

brandy wine
Brandy Wine

Fortified wine can last for up to 3 years if stored properly. There are a few things you can do to make sure your fortified wine stays in tip-top shape. Make sure to store it in a cool, dark place. If you plan on storing it for longer than 3 months, consider using fortified wine storage boxes. Don’t just throw it on top of your refrigerator!

10) Why are some brandy wine bottles brown?

People often find it odd that some of their favorite wines are actually brown. It’s only because most winemakers add other ingredients to create a more complex taste profile. The best example is Port wine, which has a reputation for being sweet and rich. However, if you’re looking for something more palatable and less sugary, you may want to try Sherry or Madeira. These wines are completely dry, but they also have been fortified with brandy wine or grape juice.